South Florida is home to a growing tech scene, and as more tech companies plant roots here, diversifying workforces continues to be a concern for many. I asked South Florida technology leaders to share their insight about how they found themselves in the tech space, current challenges facing women in tech and their advice for young women when considering jumping into a high-tech career.
Choosing a career in tech
Just because you didn’t gain an education specifically in tech, doesn’t mean it’s too late to jump into the tech space. In fact, many companies have found that it’s often easier to train a specialist to code than it is to train a programmer on a specific industry. Software companies like Modernizing Medicine actually hire doctors and train them in technology in order to design and build their EMR system. Who better to help design a health record system used by doctors than doctors themselves?
Deborah Vazquez, CEO of IT Staffing Firm PROTECH, believes that it’s important in any career to have a plan and to leverage your skills to attain that goal. “I entered the tech field begging my way into a programming role after working as an assistant in an accounting department of a theatrical organization. I had purposely looked for a job where I could use the accounting skills I had gained, but where the opportunity existed to transition into a tech role.”
The challenges facing women in tech
With men comprising a high percentage of those in the tech space, it can be difficult as a women trying to compete. Even tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Twitter have extremely low numbers of women in their tech roles. In 2015, women in tech roles at these companies were only 16.6 percent at Microsoft, 10 percent at Twitter and 17 percent at Google. When you look at the numbers in executive leadership roles (not just in tech), only 23 percent of Microsoft’s leadership roles are filled by women, 21 percent at Twitter and 21 percent at Google.
Along with working in a space so underrepresented, many also report both harassment from their male counterparts and a general loneliness in often being the only women in a team.
For Vazquez, being a woman in tech can be a tremendous advantage. “I later worked my way up the ladder at a global software company and transitioned into executive management,” she said. “As the only female Sr. VP, I was the only woman around the board room table. I never felt being the sole female was an issue. I always felt the highest level of respect from my peers and superiors. And in fact being the token woman sometimes even felt as an advantage because I brought unique perspective from that of my male counterparts which they seemed to appreciate.”
Advice to young women considering tech
Vazquez thinks that it’s less about gender and more about education, self-confidence and hard work. “My advice to young women is to seek out a mentor that understands your goals, appreciates your talents and is willing to help you succeed. This combined with a good attitude and tenacity has been the right formula for me. After many years in the software industry and a lot of domestic and overseas travel which was wearing on me, I pursued my entrepreneurial passion and founded PROTECH. This allowed me to once again do something that maximized technical and business skills in the software business to create unique value for our clients. PROTECH will turn 16 years old next month, and I’m proud of the reputation and quality brand my team and I have built over the years. And much of what we do involves career coaching which we enjoy very much.”
Although women are still lagging in numbers in the tech space, it’s important for girls and young women to know they have the opportunity to change the tech scene and become positive influencers.
To read the full article on the SFTA blog, visit SOUTH FLORIDA WOMEN IN TECH LEADERSHIP SHARE INSIGHT.